With the introductions and bag-packing out of the way from the first film, the new movie jumps straight into the action and doesn’t relent until the cliffhanger ending almost three hours later.
-Liam Lacey, Globe and Mail

Smaug ignites the excitement missing from Jackson’s sluggish first Hobbit flick, and the stunning visuals — cinematography, costuming, set design, effects — set it apart as one of the most impressive fantasy films ever made.
-Tyler Hanley, Palo Alto Weekly

If you awaken that beast you will destroy us all

The more time I can spend in Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth, the better. Another 3 hours in Tolkien’s fantasy world for Desolation of Smaug? Count me in, and I’m going to love every minute of it.

There have been numerous complaints about all the differences between this film and The Hobbit as a novel. Books don’t often translate too well to film and this is surely one of those cases. The Hobbit contains so much exposition and inner dialogue and characters meandering here and there, it would be a disaster of a film to do a straight one to one version of the book to screen. The Desolation of Smaug, however, is an “adaptation” of the novel and much has been changed to make for a better theatrical experience. Some things just make more sense visually on a screen than as written word and vice versa.

It never ceases to amaze me, the courage of Hobbits…

Sure, I was disappointed we didn’t see a lot of Beorn’s house, but how cinematic would it have been to watch the dwarves settle in and listen to Gandalf tell the story of what we’ve already watched? The wood elves forest parties are some of my favorite scenes from the book but they just wouldn’t work correctly in the context of the film. Remember how tedious the dwarf dinner scene from the first Hobbit was? Not too exciting.

If you can manage to turn off your thought process that compares the film to the book, the movie will be that much more enjoyable.

We’ve been blind, and in our blindness,
our enemy has returned.

What the film does suffer from is the same pacing issues from last years An Unexpected Journey. This second chapter seems to barrel along at rapid speed for the first hour and a half or so, bouncing from one set piece to the next, mixing in an action sequence here or there. As mentioned above, the scene at Beorn’s home is painfully short (for good reason, I suppose) and the entirety of Mirkwood flies by as well. But by the time we get to Lake Town and Erebor, the film has slowed down considerably, but not so much to it’s detriment. You COULD cut 20-30 minutes from this film without much damage, but why would you when it’s so much fun to watch?

The final few acts of the film revolve around the reveal of Smaug himself, and it is a joy to behold. Much like Gollum in the “Riddles in the Dark” scene from the previous film, Smaug is an unmatched technical achievement and so much fun to watch. The movie is worth it solely to see him slithering through all that gold treasure under the mountain. Voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch with some additional distortion techniques, Smaug should go down as one of the better cgi creatures in film.

Dragonfire and ruin! That is what he will bring upon us! He cannot see beyond his own desire!

A much better all around film than An Unexpected Journey last year and a lot more fun, The Desolation of Smaug is a fantastic journey back to Middle-earth. The climactic ending sets up next years conclusion perfectly; and much like when the Lord of the Rings trilogy ended, I’m already beginning to feel the emptiness set in for when this trilogy is over. Maybe after another 9 year break Peter Jackson can find a way to bring us back to this magical land just one more time.

…What have we done?

FilmFire review:
4/5 forms

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